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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Salty Rose: Alchemists, Witches & a Tapper in New Amsterdam by Beth M Caruso is a historical fiction novel that follows the lives of Marie du Trieux and John Tinker in the colonies. Marie narrates the novel in the first person and in a format where she is recalling her life. Marie settled into a new world hardly fit for a young girl but with grit and determination, she is able to make a life for herself with The Salty Rose, her own tavern, despite a virtually constant onslaught of difficulty, combat, uncertainty, sexism, and heartbreaking losses. Meanwhile, John is an equally forward-thinking soul and trader in New England who is on his own tenuous course as he navigates the society he finds himself frequently at odds with as well as a path to a place previously inaccessible.
The Salty Rose is a really well researched and composed piece of historical fiction and Beth M Caruso brings life in the colonies to the forefront with vivid detail. Marie is a relatable character with admiral spirit and her friendship with John is brilliantly plotted despite the day and age being one in which friendship between the two would be viewed with suspicion. Caruso does not leave out the more tragic pieces of history wherein Marie is a slave owner and even though she does not subscribe to the harsh and dehumanizing aspects of an abhorrent practice, she is nonetheless complicit. She also finds herself as a tavern owner at odds with the Native population who are overwhelmed by access to spirits, which Marie provides, and she is defiant in her position and the right to sell. Yes, the book dances between Marie and John but, for me, it is the story's protagonist and her authenticity - even when presented with traits that in hindsight are difficult to stomach - that resonate the strongest and I am grateful to have read this book.